Aaron Swain's blog about Southern Gospel Music, News, and other items of interest in the SG world.

Archive for August, 2012

CD Review: Tribute Quartet – Our Anthem

August 22, 2012 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, SG Artists, SG Music, Tribute Quartet

Rating: 5 stars

Producer: Roger Talley
Crossroads Music

Song titles: God’s Gonna Send A Revival; Thank The Lord; Good News From Jerusalem; The Song Of Heaven; Homesick Angel; Leavin’ On My Mind; The Time Is Now; With Just A Little; He Loved Me Anyway; Through Me, The Cross Lives On; It Always Gets The Darkest (Just Before Daylight); Better Farther On

When discussions arise about the “up and coming” groups in Southern Gospel music today, Tribute Quartet has found its way onto more and more lists in that category. The quartet started picking up steam with the release of For This Time in 2010, yielding songs that either gained radio success or have found lasting power in their program such as “Calvary Wins Again,” “I Am Healed,” and “That’s Why I Love Him So.” Before their next mainline release, The Waiting Is Over, in 2011, the group had seen the departure of tenor Brian Alvey and bass singer/founding member Dennis Dugger. The new guys, Riley Harrison Clark and Anthony Davis, filled the respective vacancies, and though that album produced strong singles like “Bring On The Joy” and “Homecoming Day,” it was not as overall solid as their previous effort, and I looked forward to when the lineup had time to gel and come together for a (hopefully) stronger release.

After an A Capella opening of the chorus of “Revive Us Again,” the group sticks with what has been their strength up to this point by featuring tenor Riley Clark on the upbeat of “God’s Gonna Send A Revival.” Clark also gets strong features on the worshipful ballad “Song Of Heaven,” another upbeat number with an interesting hook called “Homesick Angel,” and “The Time Is Now,” a tender ballad in the vein of “Save My Family.” Clark brought a buzz to the group when he joined at age eighteen with a voice that showed great potential, and it’s nice to hear his continued vocal development being evidenced in these songs.

I mentioned that the group’s strength has lied in featuring Clark, and most of the group’s better-known songs will attest to that fact. That trend is broken with this project, and by what many may not expect; two of the project’s strongest tracks are carried by baritone and pianist Josh Singletary. Most wouldn’t think that Singletary would be the featured vocalist on any “hits” for the quartet; when they started out, he was given songs that played up his “crooner” style, and it was almost a novelty when he got a feature. Since signing with Crossroads, they have gotten away from that, and Singletary really comes into his own here. “Good News From Jerusalem” is a moving track with an interesting structure that chronicles the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and Singletary’s delivery is impeccable. He also gets a beautifully orchestrated testimony song in “Through Me, The Cross Lives On.”

I also appreciated the improvement that bass singer Anthony Davis displayed on this project. I was glad to hear that he has opened up his tone a great deal and grew out of the nasal sound he had on The Waiting Is Over. His standouts on “Thank The Lord” and “Homesick Angel” were good evidence to this, and I didn’t expect to enjoy his cover of the Rusty Goodman classic “Leavin’ On My Mind” as much as I did. This development is arguably what makes the quartet’s sound as an ensemble the strongest it has been to date.

As is the case with any “new” group, Tribute Quartet has needed one project to really garner attention outside of a few radio singles. With strong performances by each member of the group and a song selection that is their best yet, Our Anthem could be that project for this group, and that’s why it’s their first ever project to get 5 stars from this site.

Matt Fouch Joins Legacy Five

August 20, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Legacy Five, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, Soul'd Out Quartet

Yet another lineup change story has seen its end, as Legacy Five announced the addition of Soul’d Out Quartet’s bass singer, who has been their since the group’s inception. Here’s the press release:

“For the past eight years I have had the great opportunity to travel and sing with the guys of Soul’d Out Quartet (SOQT). These men are high character individuals and it has been a pleasure to sing along side them. God has blessed SOQT and I am very thankful for the many friends I have made and the opportunities God has given through the ministry of SOQT.

With that said, after much prayer, thought and consultation with my wife, I have decided to resign my position with SOQT and join the Legacy Five team.

It is an honor and a privilege to join L5. These men have a wonderful calling on their lives and do a fantastic job. They are men of integrity and I couldn’t be happier to join their ranks. I’m excited to see where God leads and what He does in this new season of my life.

My family and I are thankful for your prayers and support, and I ask that you keep SOQT and L5 in your prayers as He leads both groups in the calling He has placed on their lives. God bless!”

Matt Fouch

Soul’d Out Quartet’s Matt Rankin says, “Soul’d Out Quartet wishes to thank Matt Fouch for 8 years of service to the Lord and the group. We have been a part of seeing many come to Christ in those years. We have been a part of watching God’s hand at work and have watched him supply the group’s needs time and time again. We hate to see Matt leave Soul’d Out but we trust that God is leading this decision. We will be in prayer for a replacement and will continue our prayers and support for Matt Fouch, his family, and Legacy 5.  Though change is many times difficult, the big picture is that we all are trying to serve the King. With that said, thank you Matt for making Soul’d Out a better group while you were here. We love you. God bless.

Legacy Five’s Scott Fowler comments, “Seasons of life change for us all.  Change is never easy but it is inevitable. The older I get, the less I like change, but with change comes the excitement of seeing what new and refreshing doors God opens for us. We are really looking forward to Matt’s contribution to Legacy Five, both on and off the stage.  To Matt, Dusty, Michael and Bryan of Soul’d Out, I want to say how much I have appreciated how gracious and kind they have been to Legacy Five and Matt during this time of transition.  I cannot remember when two groups have had this type of cooperation in a situation like this.  They are truly good men and I have great respect for them”

Matt Fouch will officially join Legacy Five on September 1.

In a similar move to Mike LeFevre’s hire of Paul Harkey, Scott Fowler has banked on one of the best young talents out there. I’ve enjoyed hearing Matt’s development as a vocalist during his time with Soul’d Out Quartet, and am anxious to see how he will fill the role voided by Glenn Dustin with Legacy Five. Here’s a clip that I got of Fouch during a concert back in January:

Although one chapter of group changes has closed, another has opened; Soul’d Out Quartet is a young, up-and-coming group with plenty of energy, so look for them to attract someone with a similar image. Someone like Justin Terry, formerly of Cross 4 Crowns, would be a great fit.

Youtube Spotlight: The Anchormen

August 20, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Concert Reviews, SG Artists, SG Music, The Anchormen, Youtube

I had the opportunity to drive only a little way from my house to a concert last Saturday night in my home area of Lynchburg, VA. The Warren Smoot Benefit Concert is held every year by the Central Virginia Angel Hearts organization, and the proceeds benefit some in need in the area. This was the event’s twelfth year, and the lineup was headlined by The Anchormen and Aaron Wilburn. While I didn’t video any of Wilburn’s set (which is just as well; my laughter would have ruined any audio on the video!), I did manage to get most of what The Anchormen sang.

This was an especially interesting night to see the group, as it was only their second concert since Paul Harkey’s departure for the LeFevre Quartet. As has been reported on various sites, Randy Byrd, formerly of the Blackwood Brothers, is the group’s new bass singer. The group has also seen the departure of lead singer Dale Forbes to go back into the pastorate, so this concert was also the second one featuring Anchormen alumnus Corey Wilson filling in on the lead part. Check out the videos of the night:

Hearing this one makes me wish that Corey wasn’t just back for a fill-in!

Youtube Spotlight: The Blackwood Brothers

August 16, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Blackwood Brothers, Concert Reviews, SG Artists, SG Music, Youtube

The Blackwood Brothers came to Madison Heights, VA, this past Sunday night. I had not seen this quartet outside of NQC, and I was curious to hear their change in sound since the departure of bass singer Randy Byrd. The vocal lineup now stands as tenor Wayne Little, lead Jimmy Blackwood, baritone Billy Blackwood, and bass Butch Owens. The group brought a great concert in the tradition of the classic Blackwood Brothers, and did the majority of their songs with no tracks, just piano. Speaking of piano, Mike Hammontree has officially returned as the group’s pianist after coming off the road due to a quadruple-bypass heart surgery, and added quite a bit to their performance. Here are the clips I got of the night:



LeFevre Quartet Hires Paul Harkey

August 15, 2012 By: Aaron Category: LeFevre Quartet, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Anchormen

A visit to the LeFevre Quartet website today yielded a pleasant surprise; the quartet has picked up Anchormen bass Paul Harkey after the departure of Brandon Barry last month. Harkey presumably starts singing with them this weekend, and will be the bass vocalist on the group’s upcoming mainline release, which is their debut release on the newly formed Activate Records.

This is a smart move on the part of Mike LeFevre; the new single from the project indicates that the group is striving for the progressive sound found on their last label effort, Nothin’ But Good, in 2008, and a young vocalist like Harkey fits that style perfectly. Since Canaan Records went belly-up shortly after Nothin’ But Good was released, the group has done nothing but table projects since, and has seen multiple lineup changes that eventually settled with the quartet being made up of tenor Harold Reed, lead Jordan LeFevre, baritone Mike LeFevre, and, up until recently, bass Brandon Barry, essentially making the vocal lineup an entirely different group from the one of 2008. It is wise to go for hiring an up-and-coming young talent to carry on in the bass slot, and Harkey’s work with The Anchormen has turned several heads, showing great potential.

The question now is, what is next for The Anchormen? The rumor mill has already strted turning, and I’ve heard some rumblings of who is stepping in. The group will be in my area this weekend, so be looking on this blog next week for a report and possibly some video footage.

CD Review: Canton Junction – (Self-titled)

August 13, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Canton Junction, CD Reviews, SG Artists, SG Music

Rating: 3.5 stars

Producers: Michael Sykes & Aaron Crabb
Label: Difference Media
Website: www.differencemedia.org

Song titles: (Disc One) I Wouldn’t Take Nothin’ For My Journey Now; Show Me Your Way; Heaven Is; The Son Shines Down On Me; Who Am I; Go Tell It On The Mountain; Coming Home; Softly And Tenderly; The Inviting Christ; My Savior’s Love; (Disc Two) Sweeter As The Days Go By; You Are So Beautiful; What a Wonderful World; Glorify; Dig a Little Deeper in God’s Love; Going Home; Since Jesus Came Into My Heart; In The Valley He Restoreth My Soul; Hold On; Smile

Download Volume One Here

Download Volume Two Here

Southern Gospel fans who are avid Youtube watchers will no doubt remember a quartet out of Cornerstone Church singing “Sweeter As The Days Go By.” That quartet, made up of tenor Matthew Hagee, lead Aaron Crabb, baritone Michael Sykes, and bass Tim Duncan, was branded “Canton Junction.” With Tim Duncan’s return to the quartet world, and a big, exciting sound from the group, that video created a buzz that carried all the way through to the announcement of their debut project. One can infer that the group comes out of the gate with a “go big or go home” mentality, as their first release contains two discs with ten songs each.

The “go big” thing really works well with the group’s vocals, as they excel on the upbeat, country-flavored tracks found throughout the discs, one of which was already mentioned; I appreciated the fact that they used the audio from their live debut of “Sweeter As The Days Go By.” The studio cuts like “I Wouldn’t Take Nothin’ For My Journey Now,” “Go Tell It On The Mountain,” “Dig A Little Deeper,” “Since Jesus Came Into My Heart” and “Hold On” are also done in that style, and the quartet has a full-bodied presence in their collective sound that lends itself to such songs. This “full” sound also carries over to the old, quiet Rambos song “In The Valley He Restoreth My Soul,” where the vocals have a sound reminiscent of the first lineup of Mercy’s Mark.

Their softer, quieter side is also brought to bear on songs like “Show Me Your Way,” and their arrangement of the hymn “Softly and Tenderly,” which features leading vocals by Hagee that are a highlight of the project. Another standout in that vein comes in the form of “The Son Shines Down On Me,” a 1970s Oak Ridge Boys song originally delivered by Noel Fox that is turned into a Tim Duncan vehicle with a 50s movie soundtrack feel.

While there is certainly some solid work done here, I found the pacing of the project overall to drag somewhat. In between the upbeat numbers and some of the stronger slower songs, there were a bunch more slow songs, mostly consisting of hymns and classics, that seem to all run together. Individually, they are strong renditions, but the arrangements tend to not break the mold set by other versions, and they are weakened by being placed one right after the other. I also found myself hitting the skip button on several songs; the Praise & Worship style of “Glorify” was a bit too repetitive, and of the secular covers on the second disc, the only one there that seemed at home in this body of work was “What A Wonderful World,” the Louis Armstrong classic that is a Duncan feature here.

Although this project was “middle-of-the-road” for me, there are enough strong selections here to keep me coming back for more listens. Canton Junction is a solid quartet with a tight sound that has a great amount of potential, and while song selection and pacing could have been improved, this is a debut recording that proves that to be true. I am looking forward to hearing what the group records as they build off of the foundation that this self-titled project lays. Canton Junction receives 3.5 stars.

News Catch-Up (8/9/12)

August 09, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Palmetto State Quartet, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

1. Palmetto State has signed with Song Garden Music Group. The group is working on a project due for a fall release. It is worth noting that group member David Staton is Executive VP of the label.

This is an upward move for the group in solidifying the Palmetto State name once again. The label is home to young groups like the Ball Brothers that have put out quality music, and the label has seen groups like the Dixie Melody Boys put out music that have breathed new life into a long career. With that in mind, I am looking forward to hearing what the new Palmetto State produces.

2. Dianne Wilkinson is releasing her autobiography, Dianne Wilkinson: The Life and Times of a Gospel Songwriter. Written in conjunction with fellow blogger Daniel Mount, the book will detail her life and “the stories behind over 150 of her best-known songs.” If you name a Top 25 hit in Southern Gospel since the 1980s, Dianne’s name is probably in the songwriting credits, so a book detailing the history behind the writer and songs is a must-read.

3. In the “interesting videos” category, check out this story from Ken Turner about JD Sumner coming to the Lord:

Stephen Hill Passes Away

August 05, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Gaither, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, Stephen Hill

Early reports are coming in that Gaither Homecoming featured artist Stephen Hill has passed away of a heart attack. More details will be posted as I get them. Please keep the family in your prayers.

Update: Here is a press release about Stephen:

It is with sadness that we have learned that Gaither Artist Stephen Hill, 55, suffered a heart attack this evening while preparing to sing at a church in Lumberton, NC. He was a talented singer, and songwriter frequently seen on many of the Gaither Homecoming videos, He was a gifted teacher at the Stamps-Baxter School of Music whose carefree and Christian spirit will be dearly missed. Please keep his family in your prayer.

In tribute, here are a few of the many songs that he was featured on in the Gaither Homecoming series: